Janet Clare has a work “uniform”, her Artisan Apron, that inspires her studio practice with stitched motivations that remind her why and how to create. It must work, because Janet writes books, designs fabric, appears on television and runs her business – all with an infectious enthusiasm!
I literally have the best job ever! I am fortunate enough to work in a lovely light filled studio with my husband Tony who handles the day to day running of the company (I call him Chief of Everything!) which leaves me largely free to design, create and teach.
Each studio day I try to start with a coffee and a quick drawing, choosing the first image from Pinterest that catches my eye, which easily solves the ‘but what shall I draw?’ problem. I rarely like my drawing but that isn’t the point of it, the point is just to practice drawing.
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How long have you been creating with fabric and thread? How did you get started?
I was brought up in a creative family- my Mum sews, knits and crochets and my Dad paints and plays the flute. I can’t really remember being taught to sew or knit, it was just something we saw every day and picked up along the way. Both my boys have learnt to sew in this way (not that they enjoy it much!).
How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
Our teenage sons, dog Betty and running a business means that the two of us are kept fully occupied! Each day is full to the brim with things to do and deadlines to meet and we often work seven days a week, but we both love what we do and feel lucky to work in such a creative and inspiring industry. Quilters are such lovely people!
Work, life balance is a myth! You can have it all just not at the same time. I am learning that the real trick is to prioritise the most important thing at that particular moment in time; which might be staying late at the studio to meet a deadline or going home at lunchtime to bake a cake for an after school treat.
Tell us about your apron and the role it plays in your creativity and studio time.
My apron also gives me courage when I have daunting things to do, such as my monthly live TV shows or standing up to talk to a huge group. It’s become more than a uniform for me, it is my signature garment, my comfort. I feel like me when I wear it. Putting my apron on begins my creative process.
And when I take it off I know my work is done for the day and it is time to relax. When I had two small(ish) boys and worked from home, I often found myself getting distracted by all the chores and housework and not really getting much work (designing and sewing) done. After much thinking I realised that if I had a uniform to wear I would feel and look like I was actually at work and not at home.
So I designed and made my Artisan Apron and it is so lovely and pale and special that I’m not tempted to clean the house, cook or brush the dog instead of working because I don’t want to spoil my pinny!
As time has gone on I’ve added embroidered sayings and mottos such as “she believed she could and so she did”, badges and bits of lace and buttons and now when I put on my apron in the morning I feel creative, inspired and ready for work!
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time? Or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
The creative process is like driving home in the dark – you can only see as far as your headlights but you know how to make each turn when you get there.
I keep lots of Pinterest boards.
I collect inspiring words and sayings, colour combinations and textures in my sketchbooks. Then I draw and paint until I catch a glimpse of an idea which then slowly grows until I know what it wants to be. And then I make it.
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
I always have many projects on the go!
My job is to spend as much of my time as possible being creative. If I don’t design and make, then we have no new products and no business. I have the best job! It’s a dream to design two fabric collections for Moda every year, have a monthly show on Create and Craft TV, teach workshops from my studio and design and create as many new quilts and projects a year as I can. I am also always working on my next book – I have written and self published four books to date, one book ‘Home Quilt Home’ with FW Media and have also contributed to several of the ‘Moda All Stars’ books with Martingale. We also attend lots of sewing and craft shows which are exhausting but inspiring and encouraging too.
At the moment I’m writing my fifth book, ‘Welcome Home’ which is about family, the feeling of home and stitching memories into quilts. I am also starting to daydream about my next fabric collection for Moda. My design process always starts with a sketchbook and lots of ink drawings. I paint and play with repeating patterns, all by hand. Then I send my original paintings off to Moda in America. I shall never get tired of seeing my paintings turn into fabric and then chosen to make into quilts.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? How does your studio setup contribute to your work process?
We work from an Edwardian building a short walk from our home. Betty the dog comes to work with us everyday and our friends and the boys sometimes call in for tea and biscuits. There is a stockroom and Tony’s office downstairs and my studio upstairs. Having run the business from our home and having every room taken over with stock and quilts it is a real luxury to have a separate work and design space. Now when we are home we are really home.
We open up our studio regularly for workshops. And we are planning some pop up shops and social stitching gatherings for next year.
What is your favorite storage tip for your fabric and creative supplies?
Only keep things that inspire you. Have a regular de-clutter, and be ruthless about it. Notice how something makes you feel – if that UFO just makes you feel guilty then donate it and move on!
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, movies? What kind?
If I am writing or designing something that does not exist in the real world yet then I like silence but if all the design problems are solved and I am just making then I listen to podcasts, music or watch cheesy rom-coms and costume dramas on Netflix.
What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?
I keep returning to nature, folk art and words.
How did you come to combine so many techniques in your work – hand and machine embroidery, applique, patchwork? Do you have a favorite?
I call myself a textile designer and not just a ‘quilt designer’ because I am fascinated by all textile techniques. I just love threads, fibres and fabrics! Combining patchwork piecing with free motion machine stitching, hand embroidery and quilting is my favourite thing to do.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people? Or do you think creativity is a skill that people can develop?
I believe that every single person is creative and can learn to make and get great pleasure from the making.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
If I run out of ideas and inspiration, I go into London for a day of museums and galleries. They say your creativity is like a well to fill up regularly not just emptied. So, I am always looking and reading, searching for and collecting things to inspire my next project.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist?
Not comparing myself and my work to others is a constant challenge. I embroidered “Authenticity is magnetic” on my apron as a reminder to stay true to me, to ignore what everyone else is doing and have faith that if I like my work, hopefully enough other people will too.
Tell us about your blog and website. What do you hope visitors will gain by visiting?
I always aim to inspire and encourage! My website is: www.janetclare.co.uk
I love Instagram and can be found there most days: @janeteclare
We have a free Email club quilt-along every year. Sampler quilts and folk art inspire the quilt for 2019, called “Oddly Enough”. You can sign up to receive my monthly newsletter and free pattern.
What’s next for you?
I’m not one of life’s great planners. I just take opportunities as they come to me, so who knows what’s next!
They say you should “throw your dreams ahead of you and walk towards them” so I keep a list of big, ridiculous daydreams in my journal (such as exhibiting at the Royal Academy Summer show and seeing the Northern lights) and keep my eyes open in case they pop up on the distant horizon and I can glimpse a way to get closer to them.
Interview with Janet Clare posted December, 2018.
Browse through all of our Spotlight interviews on Create Whimsy.